|Original Production and Cast
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|Author:||Quique [ Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:32 am ]|
|Post subject:||Original Production and Cast|
First saw this show in a '97 U.S. tour that aimed to replicate the original production in its entirety, which it did very well. Here are some videos of that production with the cast I saw:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eguJlySt ... re=related
Saw the current tour last month. As you all know, it is a newly designed production with new direction and choreography. It's actually fairly close to the original concept and the costumes are basically slightly redesigned versions of the originals. Here are some excellent vids of that production:
The current tour cast is near perfection. Stand-outs are:
Adrienne Warren--This gorgeous little lady has such a BIG voice. And she is such a committed actor. Every second she was onstage, she put forth her all and really fleshed out the character of Lorrell. I couldn't get my eyes off of her.
Chester Gregory--Like Adrienne, top notch in every way. I think the L.A. Times said it best (I paraphrase); he performs as if it's his last. His James "Thunder" Early had the audience going crazy.
Chaz Lamar Shepherd--Not only a brilliant actor but an incredible dancer and singer. Truly a triple threat.
Those three commanded attention and we gladly gave it to them. The rest were by no means inferior. The entire cast, including ensemble, gave a fantastic performance. Moya Angela's Effie, while a bit stiff in some of the more dramatic scenes, had the perfect voice for the role. Syesha's Deena was almost equally as impressive vocally, something that--like Beyonce's take on the role--works in favor of the actress but not necessarily the character. I blame casting more than anything, but other than that, she did a fine job and also gave her all that night. Trevon Davis' C.C. White was very likable and handsome, with a gorgeous voice and spot-on acting to boot.
I've mentioned this elsewhere but I was disappointed in their choice to synthesize the score's string section, which only worked to drain Harold Wheeler's orchestration of its beauty and denied the audience an additional layer of expression by some of the most flexible and emotive instruments in the world.
The sets were a bit on the distractingly flashy side and reminded me a lot of the film's look. Too many scenes used that 'sparkly' American Idol-ish look, which I felt pulled some of the focus away from the real entertainment being performed upon that stage.
Robin Wagner's moving panels were ingeniously used to great effectiveness, much like the designer's original moving light tower concept seen in the original production.
The lighting by Ken Billington was most effective when there weren't any video images or LED lights. His lighting for "Steppin' to the Bad Side" was very similar to the original production's, relying on shadow for effect and giving the scene an appropriate shadiness and edge.
The choreography by Robert Longbottom was very good and he managed to make one of the show's best ensemble numbers, "Steppin' to the Bad Side," invoke applause from the audience during the song. I loved the choreography for that song until the men and women in suits carrying briefcases came out. It wasn't bad but the video showing an overhead shot of the stage as the dancers lay on their backs doing a routine made me wish I could see them. Or that they'd choreograph it differently so as to eliminate the video gimmick.
The direction by Mr. Longbottom was essentially that of Michael Bennett's from what I know, with some variation here and there, mostly adapting to the new set design and its movement.
My reaction to the 2006 film version was lukewarm. Like the stage production, I thought it was 30 minutes too long. The musical has one of Broadway's best scores but its plot is thin and runs out of steam halfway through the second act.
I enjoyed the film and both productions but wasn't blown away by neither. The cast of the first production was just OK and I don't recall being too impressed by the manner in which the choreography was executed. Until a few days ago, I thought Dreamgirls was an entertaining musical with great songs and a fairly interesting plot.
Then I found these clips of the original Broadway production and cast in action at the Imperial Theatre in 1981.
Ben Harney, Obba Babatunde and company Step to the Bad Side:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVbwp1uh ... re=related
Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, and Jennifer Holliday battle it out in "Heavy":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgCv5a22 ... re=related
The Dreamettes make their Apollo debut in "Move (You're Stepping On My Heart)":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQzFz9_M ... re=related
And I was blown away.
What is it about these grainy clips? They're so electric! The incomparable Jennifer Holliday is a given, but clips like "Steppin' to the Bad Side" literally made my palms sweat. The choreography is amazing and spectacularly executed. Very 80's and very thrilling!! I never felt this way about the show up until after watching those videos. I'm hooked!
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